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The peevish wish

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TitleInfo
Title
The peevish wish
SubTitle
conjectural literature from Walpole to the Shelleys
Name (type = personal)
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Cowell
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Isaac Bainbridge
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1986-
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Isaac Bainbridge Cowell
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author
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Colin
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Colin Jager
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Advisory Committee
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chair
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Festa
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Lynn
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Lynn Festa
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Advisory Committee
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internal member
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McGill
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Meredith
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Meredith McGill
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Advisory Committee
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internal member
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Gurton-Wachter
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Lily
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Lily Gurton-Wachter
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Advisory Committee
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outside member
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Rutgers University
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degree grantor
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School of Graduate Studies
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school
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Text
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theses
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2019
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2019-01
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2019
Place
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xx
Language
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eng
Abstract (type = abstract)
This dissertation traces British Romantic literature’s deep moral investment in the unjustified or aimless idea. That investment materializes as conjecture, which offers a means of expressing an idea without yet making a claim for what the idea ultimately signifies. Conjecture, therefore, is the form that thought takes when it aims beyond what it knows that it can presently justify as content.
The project traces conjecture from the Enlightenment texts of Adam Smith, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant to the poems, novels and plays of Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Walter Scott, William Wordsworth, and Mary and Percy Shelley. In these writers, conjecture unsettles narratives whose outcomes had seemed fixed and worlds that had appeared closed. As a narrative mode, conjecture acts as a placeholder for thoughts that have not yet found their final guiding idea or their final frame of reference. In some cases, conjecture takes the form of an unresolved question: narrators and characters are left gesturing at the place where an answer should go, but without thereby claiming to actually have found an answer. In other cases, conjecture takes the reverse form: the answer is there, but without the question that would make the answer meaningful. The idea lacks its frame of reference. In either case, an idea persists in the subject’s mind even when it is not yet—or is no longer—a live possibility for him or her.
The idealism in conjecture looks like simply being out of touch with reality. Kant, for example, talks about “the peevish wish … one that nothing satisfies.” Peevishness is usually considered a disengagement from others—something merely contrarian. However, one can appear contrarian precisely because one hasn’t disengaged from others; because one hasn’t silenced oneself. Conjecture keeps its thought alive in the faith that the idea does matter and that it does merit engagement, even when one can’t yet explain why.
In conjectural literature, thoughts that feel idle, provisional, or incomplete turn out to reflect deep moral investments in ideas that cannot yet be fully articulated or justified. Such thoughts frustrate one’s current understanding and thus take one outside of oneself. In these texts, as a result, the moral imagination remains collectively shared; the thoughts that appear most solipsistic at the time turn out never to have been properly one’s own to begin with. For the present, however, conjecture leaves its subject in a position of darkness and doubt. And when it does, characters and narrators see how their own doubts might eventually contribute to the better moral understanding of others—even if they themselves will never share in that understanding. The peevish wish ultimately seeks a transformed world, not for oneself, but for others.
Subject (authority = RUETD)
Topic
Literatures in English
Subject (authority = ETD-LCSH)
Topic
Prediction (Logic)
Subject (authority = ETD-LCSH)
Topic
English literature -- 19th century
RelatedItem (type = host)
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Title
Rutgers University Electronic Theses and Dissertations
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ETD_9465
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electronic resource
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application/pdf
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text/xml
Extent
1 online resource (231 pages)
Note (type = degree)
Ph.D.
Note (type = bibliography)
Includes bibliographical references
Note (type = statement of responsibility)
by Isaac Bainbridge Cowell
Subject
Name (authority = LCNAF)
NamePart (type = personal)
Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797. Castle of Otranto.
Subject
Name (authority = LCNAF)
NamePart (type = personal)
Radcliffe, Ann Ward, 1764-1823. Italian, or, The confessional of the black penitents.
Subject
Name (authority = LCNAF)
NamePart (type = personal)
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 1772-1834. Christabel.
Subject
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Scott, Walter, 1771-1832.
Subject
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Wordsworth, William, 1770-1850.
Subject
Name (authority = LCNAF)
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Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 1792-1822. Cenci.
Subject
Name (authority = LCNAF)
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Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, 1797-1851. Frankenstein.
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School of Graduate Studies Electronic Theses and Dissertations
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rucore10001600001
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NjNbRU
Identifier (type = doi)
doi:10.7282/t3-krmg-1x25
Genre (authority = ExL-Esploro)
ETD doctoral
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Rights

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The author owns the copyright to this work.
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Name
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Cowell
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Isaac
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Bainbridge
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RightsEvent
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Permission or license
DateTime (encoding = w3cdtf); (qualifier = exact); (point = start)
2018-12-28 00:30:36
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Isaac Cowell
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Rutgers University. School of Graduate Studies
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Author Agreement License
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I hereby grant to the Rutgers University Libraries and to my school the non-exclusive right to archive, reproduce and distribute my thesis or dissertation, in whole or in part, and/or my abstract, in whole or in part, in and from an electronic format, subject to the release date subsequently stipulated in this submittal form and approved by my school. I represent and stipulate that the thesis or dissertation and its abstract are my original work, that they do not infringe or violate any rights of others, and that I make these grants as the sole owner of the rights to my thesis or dissertation and its abstract. I represent that I have obtained written permissions, when necessary, from the owner(s) of each third party copyrighted matter to be included in my thesis or dissertation and will supply copies of such upon request by my school. I acknowledge that RU ETD and my school will not distribute my thesis or dissertation or its abstract if, in their reasonable judgment, they believe all such rights have not been secured. I acknowledge that I retain ownership rights to the copyright of my work. I also retain the right to use all or part of this thesis or dissertation in future works, such as articles or books.
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2019-01-31
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2021-01-30
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Access to this PDF has been restricted at the author's request. It will be publicly available after January 30th, 2021.
Copyright
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Copyright protected
Availability
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Open
Reason
Permission or license
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